How to develop followers through soft leadership skills

Over the course of the next few weeks I will provide insight into how you can develop your followership through soft leadership skills, touching on the use of team-unifying techniques, building rapport and matching and mirroring body language. Before we do this however, let’s discuss what followership is.

Within the last 40 years UK organisations, by developing managed safety systems and procedures, have increased their organisational morale and made enormous strides in creating safer workplaces for all concerned. Nevertheless we are still experiencing some very serious and disturbing incidents. Systems management is simply not enough to reduce such incidents – improved safety leadership is necessary.

It is axiomatic that the quality of leadership depends on the quality of followership. In comparison to ‘leadership’ little is heard about ‘followership’. A focus on followership helps to increase our understanding of leadership; especially within the safety and health arena.

Followership has been defined as “The leadership influence of a manager on subordinates” (Conger et al. 2000). Leaders need followers; without any followers, anybody would have immense difficulty in becoming any sort of leader. The question is ‘What are the best leadership practices to promote healthy followership?’

Many stress-loaded managers I meet want to worry less and lead more effectively in response to our technologically, economically and demographically changing times. For this they need professional leadership techniques that, while assisting them in improving the bottom line, will also generate fewer incidents, accidents, absenteeism and job-dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, job-dissatisfaction is a common symptom of the poor, outdated or inappropriate leadership that results in uninspiring organisational rigidity and counter-productive presenteeism. Combined with rapid changes in technology and an increasingly globalised marketplace, this all loads much more pressure on managers, leaders and companies to perform flexibility and proactively rather than reactively respond to the shifts, twists and turns of very competitive and mercurial markets.

To this end it should be recognised that to achieve strategic organisational goals the common keynote of all leadership and followership decisions must be their ‘unity of purpose’. Such unity breaks down the redundant and counter-productive ‘us and them’ constructs of ‘capital and labour’ and thereby strengthens the whole organisation. The maintenance and development of this unity of purpose is therefore the core-duty of both leadership and followership in mutually-supportive and developmental fellowship.

In next week’s blog I will discuss the soft leadership skills you can work on in order to deal with complex people-issues that we are faced with in the workplace.

Click for further information on the Coaching and Leading Safely (CaLS©) Programme, exclusively designed for managers, leaders, and safety personnel.

Can all types of cultures be safe cultures?

What is a culture? 

Culture definition. The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art, from one generation to the next.

The term ‘safety culture’ was first used in The International Nuclear Safety Group’s (INSAG’s 1988) Summary Report on the Post-Accident Review Meeting on the Chernobyl Accident where safety culture was first described.

The U.K. Health and Safety Commission developed one of the most commonly used definitions of safety culture: “The product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management.

“Organisations with a positive safety culture are characterised by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficiency of preventive measures.”

There are four basic types of organisational cultures according to Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron –

  • Clan oriented cultures are family-like, with a focus on mentoring, nurturing, and “doing things together.”
  • Adhocracy oriented cultures are dynamic and entrepreneurial, with a focus on risk-taking, innovation, and “doing things first.”
  • Market oriented cultures are results oriented, with a focus on competition, achievement, and “getting the job done.”
  • Hierarchy oriented cultures are structured and controlled, with a focus on efficiency, stability and “doing things right






Having consulted and worked in all of these types of cultures, implementing a cultural change programme to enhance the safety and wellbeing can be potentially challenging as it depends on the true focus of the organisation and its leadership team and if it possesses more than one type of culture –i.e. many have two markets driven and hierarchical.

The Clan culture values flexibility, employee autonomy and teamwork rather than competition or conformity. While this business culture has many positive features, there are also some potential issues (i.e. family run businesses).

The Adhocracy culture can be a dynamic, entrepreneurial and creative place to work. Innovation and risk taking is welcomed by staff and leaders, they strive to be on the leading edge of new products. A good example of this is Apple.

The Hierarchy culture can be a highly structured place to work, where rules and procedures govern behaviour and can be challenging to enhance as ‘we have always done it this way and it works’. Management want security and predictability. Examples of this sort are the armed forces and many universities.

The Market culture is predominantly a results driven organisation focused on job/task completion. People are competitive and goal orientated. Leaders are demanding, productive and too busy for safety, as this is low on their list of priorities. A good example – banks and insurance companies.

All organisational cultures promote some forms of behaviour, and inhibit others. Some are well suited to rapid and repeated change, others are suited to slow incremental development of the establishment.

The underlying belief that people are selfish and only out for themselves might unwittingly influence a company’s attitudes and behaviours toward outside salespeople, vendors, and consultants. This is profound stuff that is largely invisible, unspoken, and unknown to an organisation’s members. So is it possible to really know a company’s culture?

Sometimes it’s difficult as you can’t see the wood for the trees however, to help, Cameron and Quinn have developed an Organisational Culture Assessment Instrument online at

  1. What sort of culture do you have within your organisation?
  2. Have you a safe culture?
  3. Have you the buy in from the senior management?

Other potential roadblocks to an effective safety culture

In my experience, there are five barriers that frequently prevent managers from being more effective in promoting a safe culture –

  1. Management by exception – until there’s a problem the manager or leader is not seen, they react to an incident when it happens and often say they have no time to carry out ongoing safety.
  2. Poor communication – both in terms of verbal and nonverbal, saying one thing about safety then doing another; i.e. taking short cuts.
  3. Management by fear – employees frightened to report incidents in case of reprimand. Motivating staff through fear only leads to problems, usually hidden issues that only come to light when preventative action is no longer an option.
  4. Over emphasis on statistics –numbers don’t help to build trust and statistics may identify individuals who, whether deliberately or unwittingly, are underperforming and continue to do so without any remedial action being taken by those who are responsible for doing so. There may of course, be circumstances unacknowledged by those whose duty it is to acknowledge them (such as the conditions of equipment, plant and premises or weaknesses in the management of documentation, policies and procedures) that are beyond the control of particular underperforming individuals.
  5. Directors and owners of the company who are not interested in safety cannot see the benefits and pay lipservice to the whole thing, just ticking boxes to comply with statutory provisions.

What is the solution?

The first essential step is to engage the top tiers of the organisation, directors and senior management, the people who set the tones of the operational and strategic working environments, in the institution and evolution of a culture of safety.

This has the added benefit of encouraging the smaller companies who contract to them to take safety as seriously as their client does. This can have a domino effect of getting the supply-chain businesses to strategise full programmes of compliance and building a safer culture instead of just ticking compliance boxes.

The ramifications of the values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that leaders communicate, both directly and by personal example, to those for whose safety and prosperity they are responsible for have profound and far-reaching effects on team-integration, morale, safe attitudes and behaviours, production and productivity.


Many organisations can change with time and commitment; some are more challenging than others, much of this has a lot to do with the way it is led and sticking to its core values help to sustain and solidify the culture each and every day.

Commitment must come from the top in a visible format, not just signing the policy documentation, real leadership – leading by example getting out onto the shop floor on a more regular basis, etc.

So please arrange a meeting with your board and sell them the incredible benefits to implementing a strong tone for your site.

Cameron and Quinn (1999)
Four organisational cultural types – by B.M. Tharp

Are you a Manager or Leader?

Every day we are managing some aspect of our life or leading another, so sometimes there doesn’t appear to be any difference between the two.

LeadershipMost managers are so wrapped up in dealing with production, quality and safety that they can tend to forget about staff morale.

According to Warren Bennis – in his book ‘On Becoming a Leader’, he thinks of the differences between leaders and managers as the difference between those who master the context and those who surrender it.

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates
  • The manager maintains; the leader
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why
  • The manager imitates; the leader
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing

When leading safety issues we use many of these to enhance the culture and improve morale. This must be done in a genuine way each time as it’s about forming good habits, gaining trust and winning hearts and minds.

The above aspects are discussed during the leading and behaving safely course.

Good luck on your journey.

Do rewards really work?

Are you a carrot or a stick person?

Many companies implement a reward system for all employees to work safely and report incidents, but do they actually work? Rewards and punishments are both ways of manipulating safer behaviour.

According to Alfie Kohn who carried out much research on rewards explains, for example work safely and here is what we are going to do for you, which to employees means do this in a safe manner and your get that, a decrease in incidents doesn’t necessarily mean the workforce have got safer, in my experience they report less to avoid reprimand, which is sometimes seen as we are getting safer.

Rewards are most damaging to attention when the task is already fundamentally motivating. That may be simply because there is that much more interest to lose when extrinsics are introduced; if you’re doing something boring, your interest level may already be at rock bottom.

However, that doesn’t give us license to treat employees like pets when the task is uninteresting. Instead, we need to examine the task itself, the content of the work pattern, to see how it can be made more engaging.

Regardless of what we do about it, though, one of the most thoroughly researched findings in social psychology is that the more you reward someone for doing something, the less interest that person will tend to have in whatever he or she was rewarded to do.

Kohn goes on to explain that praise, and other rewards—are not merely ineffective over the long haul but counterproductive with respect to the things that concern us most: Another group of studies shows that when people are offered a reward for doing a task that involves some degree of problem solving or creativity—or for doing it well—they will tend to do lower quality work than those offered no reward.


We need clever recognition

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, two of the most valuable psychological needs we have as human beings are the need to be appreciated and the need to “belong.” These needs are met through peer-to-peer thanks and recognition. Look at the hierarchy: you can see the compensation and benefits support a fundamental need, but recognition and career advancement support our higher-level psychological needs.

Hormones Play a Role

One final point. Recognition has a physiological impact on performance. Oxytocin is the well-known “good feeling hormone.” Our bodies create Oxytocin when we feel appreciated (even shaking someone’s hand creates this hormone). Recent research shows that people who work under the influence of Oxytocin perform better and are more trustworthy at work.

When we fully embrace a modern recognition program and people start thanking each other, trust and engagement go up – improving employee morale, quality and of course safety.

Next time you see someone doing the right thing, take a minute and thank them openly.

Unlock your potential with safety coaching and mentoring

What is Coaching and Mentoring?

Coaching is about unlocking a person’s true potential. Face-to-face safety coaching will enable a person to raise their game through a sequenCoaching and mentoringce of careful reflective questioning techniques. It enables individuals to discover their inner strengths.

Mentoring is more a personal development relationship in which the experienced mentor helps support and guide the mentee, usually face to face, in his or her career/professional development. The mentor will assist in enhancing performance and developing safe leadership qualities, to move from where they currently are, to where they, or the organisation, needs to be.

 What are the benefits?

Many people think they don’t need help. They often think things are OK as they are, or they may not have the time in their working day to think about their development.

However, taking a few hours out of your working day on a monthly basis by working with a dependable and confidential coach or mentor means you will;

  • Be provided with one to one support, experience and motivation
  • Have the ability to bounce off ideas and initiatives
  • Become more focussed and productive
  • Be able to understand yourself better and improve your relationships with others
  • Increase your confidence in training delivery and leadership skills
  • Your strategic goals will be supported
  • Your potential will be unleashed. Coaching will enable you to be challenged in order to expand your beliefs

We are constantly bombarded today in the work environment, from many different angles; however by taking a few hours out per month with a coach or mentor can make a huge difference.

An initial consultation would involve discovering which interpersonal issues or challenges need to be resolved with an action plan for moving forward. Do get in touch with Dan to discuss how we can help.